Melody and 3/4 Time are Returning

Melody and 3/4 time are returning. Music that is heavy on square, off beat rhythm and simple chant but lacks beauty of melody and rhythmic variety has overstayed its welcome. They have been like guests that just won’t leave.  These guests, by the way,  have names. I call them the three “R’s”:  Rock and Roll and Rap. Most of their rhythms are square . They dominate through 4/4 or 2/4 time meters.  Two of the guests, Rock and Roll, insist and the constant hypnotic repetition of the “upbeat,” beats two and four. These three guests tend to avoid triple meter like the plague. To them, the words and melody of the 1936 song “By Strauss” music by George and lyrics by Ira Gershwin represent a worst case scenario: Ira  Gershwin writes about how a melody in 3/4 time literally goes lilting through the house. By the way, you can enjoy By Strauss in the classic movie, the 1951 production of : An American in Paris. It is a showstopper It is danced with comedy and verve as only Gene Kelly can.  The movie was inspired by the 1928 orchestral work with the same title by George Gershwin. It also features some of Gershwin’s most loved songs. The climax is a 16  minute  ballet on the 1928 orchestral work.  By the way, the movie won 8 academy awards.

Detail from frontispiece to Thomas Wilson’s Correct Method of German and French Waltzing (1816), showing nine positions of the Waltz, clockwise from the left- where the musicians are seated (from Wikopedia)

THE EFFECT OF TIME METERS ON THE PUBLIC

Duple (2/4 and 4/4) meters have sharp angles. Just watch a conductor outlining the angular motions with his baton. Triple meter can be conducted with a baton going in circles. When  understanding time meters and their effects,  the alchemical “squaring of the circle” takes on new meaning: Duple meters are earthbound. The square is associated with the alchemical element of  of earth. The circle represents heaven. Squaring the circle means bringing heaven to earth. The circle represents spiritual qualities- Qualities that are beautiful but you cannot touch.  We need to paraphrase “squaring the circle.” Since the angular rhythms have been so prominent for the last 60 years, we need to “circle the square” with 3/4 time and melody.

OUR RICH WALTZ TRADITION

 I recommend this needed return to melody written in three-four time meter. It will help with our spiritual survival which ultimately helps our physical survival.  This task is up to the composers.  One such popular waltz number is by Cat Stevens, Morning Has Broken. Norwegian Wood by the Beatles is another. You Light Up My life by Joe Brooks is a third example.  Schubert wrote a collection of waltzes. Brahms has a book of waltzes. Chopin, of course loved waltzes and gave the Viennese waltz a Polish twist.  Remember Strauss, the waltz king, which the Gershwins championed as I just wrote about above. The old minuet is in 3/4 time.  Let’s look to these rich traditions of the past. Then we can turn around to face the future, knowing that our lives will be happier as a result. Incidentally, the ancient Greeks had the same thoughts about music – that music affects character.  They called this musical property  by the name of “ethos”.

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